King’s Lynn Directory: D




The Dexter family had photographic studios in Lynn for over 50 years. The business was founded by William Sothern and Sarah Dexter in about 1853. It passed, when they retired in 1881, to their son, Walter Sothern Dexter, who remained active in Lynn until 1905/6. Several members of the family worked in the Dexter studios over the years. See individual entries, below, for more details.

(For a non-family employee, see Spanton, Fredrick.)

DEXTER, Alice 

Daughter of William Sothern and Sarah Dexter. In the 1871 census she was described as ‘Photographer, aged 21’, assisting in her parents’ studio in Blackfriars Street. She married and left the family home towards the end of 1872. 

DEXTER, Irving 

A son of Walter Sothern Dexter, he worked in the family shop in Lynn, but perhaps only on the fancy goods side of the business. (The 1901 census described him as a ‘stationer’ at the family’s High Street studio and shop.) By 1911 he was working as a ‘journalistic photographer’, based at the family’s Felixstowe studio, and specialising in press photography. 


‘Photographer’ in the studio of his father, Walter Sothern Dexter, in the 1901 census. By the time of the 1911 census he had moved to Wandsworth and was described as an ‘illustrator of works and painter of pictures’.

DEXTER, Sarah 

Wife of William Sothern Dexter. For career details, see ‘Dexter, William Sothern and Sarah’ (below).

DEXTER, Walter Sothern

Walter Sothern Dexter was helping in the studio of his parents, William Sothern and Sarah, by 1870, and he had moved to Wellingborough to run his own studio by 1876. When his parents retired in 1881, he returned to Lynn to take charge of the Athenaeum Parade studio. In 1889 he moved the fancy goods side of the business to 109 High Street, but the photographic studio continued to operate in Athenaeum Parade. In 1890 he broke with the tradition of identifying the studio as being ‘opposite the Athenaeum’ (which had, perhaps lost some prestige since the Post Office took over a large part of the building in 1883) and henceforth referred to the business as being in ‘Blackfriars Street, Lynn (Near the Post Office)‘. In 1895 he consolidated both sides of his business at 23-26 High Street.

Walter Sothern Dexter gave up his High Street Studio in late 1905 or early 1906, when W H Smith took over the premises. By 1907 he had moved to Felixstowe, where he set up a new studio.

Trade directory evidence:

Blackfriars Street, Lynn

WN1883, KN1888, KN1892

High Street, Lynn

KN1896, KN1900, TL1901*, KN1904*

23 High Street, Lynn


*Listed ‘& Son’, 1901, and ‘& Sons’, 1904.

 DEXTER, William John 

Older son of William Sothern and Sarah Dexter. Formally taken into the family business in 1869, and listed as ‘photographer’ in the 1871 census. In 1872 he set up as a poulterer at the Athenaeum Parade address, but he continued (or returned) to help in the studio, and was identified as ‘photographer’ in the 1881 census.

DEXTER, William Sothern and Sarah 

William Sothern Dexter and Sarah Dexter established their first studio at 2 Regent Street in about 1853, though it first appeared in a trade directory for 1858. They were there until 1865, sometimes listed in directories under her name, sometimes under his. Carte mounts from Regent Street tend to bear the name ‘William Dexter’. In press advertisements of the early years, however, it was her name that was more commonly used, and the studio was often referred to as Mrs Dexter’s Likeness Rooms or Mrs Dexter’s Photographic Rooms.

In 1865 William and Sarah moved to a new studio (originally the town’s first Methodist Chapel), in Athenaeum Parade. This was technically in North Clough Lane, but was usually referred to as being part of Blackfriars Street. Carte mounts from the early years at Athenaeum Parade tend to refer to the business as ‘Mr & Mrs Dexter’. In 1869 they started using the title ‘Dexter & Son’ (their eldest son, William John, having been taken into the business), and then, in 1870, the involvement of their next son, Walter Sothern, was marked by a change to ‘Dexter & Sons’. (These stages in development of the business name are taken from press advertisements. An 1869 trade directory, however, had ‘& Sons’. Carte mounts also tend to bear the trading name of Messrs Dexter & Sons.)  In 1872 the younger William set up in business as a poulterer, though he may still have helped in the studio, and by 1876, Walter Sothern had left home and was running his own studio in Wellingborough.

William Sothern and Sarah retired in 1881, when Walter Sothern returned from Wellingborough to take charge of the Athenaeum Parade studio.

Trade directory evidence: 


Regent Street, Lynn


DEXTER, William Sothern

Regent Street, Lynn

KN1858, KN1865

2 Regent Street, Lynn


Blackfriars Street, Lynn

HN1868, KN1869*, HN1872*, KN1875*, HN1877*, KN1879, KN1883

*Listed as ‘William Sothern Dexter & Sons’, 1869 and 1875, and as ‘Dexter & Sons’, 1872 and 1877. 

DON, The 

Apparently the trading name of Frederick, Naomi and Percival Wright of 7 Broad Street. The Don is not mentioned in trade directories, but pictures labelled ‘The Don’, and (sometimes) bearing the 7 Broad Street address, clearly date from the years when trade directories show the Wright family operating there. For more information, see ‘Wright, Frederick, Naomi and Percival’. 

DRAKE, Lewis

Recorded in the 1891 census as a photographer, aged 26, boarding in St Nicholas Street. King’s Lynn. He was presumably an itinerant or an employee in someone else’s studio.


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